Why your hair turns gray

When gray hair starts popping up, one of your first thoughts may be, “Why me?!” Well, the answers to that question might not be what you think they are. This is particularly true if you’ve been blaming stress. Here’s the real deal on the three major factors that determine when and why you go gray.


It turns out that you may have your parents to thank for those gray strands. Your hair will likely start turning gray at the same age that your parents’ hair did. That means if one or both of your parents went gray prematurely, then chances are that you will too. Genes play the biggest role in regulating the point at which hair follicles will start losing their pigment. This loss of pigment is really all that graying is.

Health and habits

While genetics largely determine when your hair turns gray, your health and daily habits can determine and even speed up the rate of graying. Smoking, vitamin and nutrition deficiencies and thyroid conditions can influence the production (or lack thereof) of melanin. Melanin is the pigment responsible for providing color to hair.

Damaged or dying melanocytes

OK, so the loss of melanin is the catalyst for the graying process, but how exactly does that work? Melanocytes are the cells responsible for producing the melanin pigment. When they become damaged or begin dying (which is natural with age) our hair begins to gray.

So does stress cause gray hair? Not necessarily. Stress often gets a bad rap for bringing on the grays, but it’s not usually to blame. Stress is more closely linked to hair loss and shedding than it is to silver streaks.

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